Bayern need to ‘shift up a gear’
When Lufthansa charter LH 2571 landed at Munich airport at 2.35 in the wee small hours of Wednesday morning, FC Bayern's 36-hour trip to the Champions League away meeting with Shakhtar Donetsk officially came to an end. A potentially valuable but just as possibly dangerous goalless draw in the Round of 16 first leg against the Ukrainian champions meant the squad and officials were left with plenty to ponder as they reflected on what the result might mean for the second and decisive leg at the Allianz Arena on 11 March.
"It's not the result we were looking for," mused chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge after a "strange match" at the Arena in Lviv, where UEFA ordered the game to be played due to the ongoing hostilities in east Ukraine. "We could have made life easier for ourselves for the return, because we could have won it. We didn't manage that, but we've also not lost. The door's open, but we could have opened it a little wider," Rummenigge continued.
Room to improve
Sporting director Matthias Sammer warned that the result was "dangerous. To get through, you have to win at least one of the matches. Everyone can see we have room to improve before we reach peak form, and that's the message for the next few days. We have to shift up a gear. Our performance today was OK, but it wasn't great. And I do think we'll need a superb display in the return." Sammer is only too well aware of the difficult of the task facing Bayern in the return three weeks from now.
Pep Guardiola's men began the contest in front of a 35,000 full house at the Euro 2012 Arena in Lviv with determination and intent. FCB controlled the play against the physically robust home team, who were playing their first competitive match since December, and fashioned a handful of promising openings. "We had moments of inspiration in the first half, but we didn't round them off with a goal. That's the one area where the players to be taking a little look at themselves," lamented Rummenigge.
Game of two halves
"I think we did well. We controlled the match and stopped them hitting us on the break, which is their great strength. It's a shame we didn't score because that would have done us good," agreed captain Bastian Schweinsteiger. "Obviously we wanted more, and we could have had more," added Thomas Müller: "The first half was very decent, we just came up a couple of inches short on several occasions. Unfortunately, we couldn't impose our game so well in the second half."
It was indeed the case that FCB lost their rhythm and shape to a certain extent after the interval, so chances were few and far between against Shakhtar's tight defence. The task was not made easier by the Reds having to negotiate the last 25 minutes with only ten men, as Xabi Alonso's 100th Champions League appearance was made even more memorable for the wrong reasons when the Spaniard was dismissed for a second bookable offence. The midfielder now misses the return leg in Munich.
No compromise at home
"I thought it wasn't really enough in the second half," commented Rummenigge before turning his attention to the future: "Our target was to score at least once today but we've not managed it. It means we'll have to be extremely focused for the second leg if we're to make it to the quarter-finals." Sammer took a similar view: "We're on course, but we're not yet where we want and have to be. We need to improve. It wasn't bad today, but it also wasn't the real Bayern Munich. And that's where we have to be."
History is certainly on Bayern's side ahead of the second meeting: after an away draw in the first leg in a knockout stage, FCB have made the next round 19 times out of 21. Thomas Müller identified a positive aspect to the result: "There can be no compromise. We have a clear-cut plan: if we're to go through, we have to win the return."